THE tug-of-war between Valencia and West Ham for the signing of Celta Vigo star Maxi Gomez appears to have swung in the direction of the La Liga side.
However, because he’s uncontactable in the mountains of Uruguay – the tough centre forward has yet to sign a deal with anyone.
The 22-year-old was touted as the replacement for Marko Arnautovic, who Hammers fans were glad to see the back of after he secured a £30m move to Shanghai SIPG last week.
West Ham were even prepared to pay Gomez’s £44.85m release clause, albeit in installments which is when they hit a snag.
Because Celta Vigo weren’t obliged to accept such a deal, that allowed Valencia to swoop at the last minute with an offer of money plus Santi Mina, as well as a two-year loan deal for highly-rated defender Jorge Saenz that WAS accepted.
But the plot thickened yesterday when it was reported that Gomez, who loves the great outdoors, was incommunicado with the outside world as he treks around Uruguay’s mountainscape with his pals after taking a break following the Copa America.
That means West Ham could still secure his signature, and Valencia are waiting with baited breath to see if he’ll agree a contract with them.
And he’s a player you’d definitely want in your team. In South America, Gomez has earned himself a fearless reputation that promises bags of potential.
People back in Uruguay say that I’m going to be Luis Suárez’s successor in the national team and I hope that will turn out to be the case.”
After all, the expectation is that the 6 ft 1inch striker will be the perfect replacement for Luis Suarez, when the 31-year-old finally calls time on his international career.
“People back in Uruguay say that I’m going to be Luis Suárez’s successor in the national team and I hope that will turn out to be the case,” once Gomez confidently claimed.
Nicknamed ‘Toro’ meaning ‘The Bull’, he certainly doesn’t take any when he’s on the pitch.
A powerhouse of a forward, Gomez is very-skilled at protecting the ball from defenders, often shrugging off their attentions with his upper body strength and strong arms.
His physicality, a throw-back to No.9’s of yesteryear, will serve him well against the toughest of centre backs and he won’t get bullied easy.
Technically he can use both feet, although it’s clear that he favours his right in front of goal.
But it’s in the air where Gomez is at his best, with the spring of a flea and neck muscles made of steel.
In his first season at Celta Vigo in 2017-18, he scored 17 goals in La Liga – astonishingly 11 of those were with his head.
Off the pitch, he’s private – occasionally sharing images of fishing trips, trekking around the countryside and enjoying nights out with an unnamed girlfriend on Twitter. But it’s football that is his main focus.
DETERMINED TO SUCCEED
Fueled by ambition, Gomez showed incredible mental strength to make the grade.
At the age of 15 he moved from his hometown Paysandú, a small city that forms the border with Argentina, to the bustling bright lights of Montevideo and joined Defensor Sporting.
It could’ve been a daunting prospect for the then-teen, but he was rewarded for his courage.
After impressing in youth teams, he was soon given a chance in the first team in 2015.
And one moment typified exactly Gomez’s spirit, and showed that he doesn’t shirk the burden of responsibility.
Sporting Defensor were taken to penalties in a match against Lanus in a Copa Sudamericana last-16 clash.
Club captain Andrés Fleurquin asked Gomez if he was up for taking a spot kick, and the-then 19-year-old didn’t even flinch, saying “sure.”
It was only his second appearance for the club, but that didn’t deter him. Up he stepped, and with a swing of his right boot a star was born.
A MAN FOR THE BIG STAGE
Gomez is certainly one for the big occasion, and rises to the challenge of playing against the toughest opponents.
On his bow for Celta he scored a brace, becoming the first player to score twice on his debut in the 21st century for the club.
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid’s defences were all breached by Gomez during his time in Spain too, which shows his fearless attitude, as well as his quality.
It’s testament to his ability that Zinedine Zidane considered the Uruguayan as an alternative to Luka Jovic before they bought the Serb for £52.4m.
NO THANKS, CHINA
Back in January, 2017 Gomez looked set to move to Chinese Super League Club Beijing Guoan.
According to reports, Celta reluctantly agreed on a deal worth around £18m pound with a further £3.5m in add-ons.
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However, at the last minute, the deal was pulled – and it was believed that Gomez’s reluctance to leave was a major factor in negotiations breaking down, despite the promise of a contract that would’ve seen him earn more money than he could ever have imagined.
With his future still up in the air, West Ham fans will still hold onto the hope that the club will pay Gomez’s full release clause and get his signature.
Although they’d have to track him down at the Cerro Catedral mountain too.